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Money aside from the payment of rent that a landlord requires a tenant to pay to be kept separately in a fund for use should the tenant cause damage to the premises or otherwise violate terms of the lease.
A security deposit is usually in the amount of one or two months' rent. It usually must be paid at the time that the Landlord and Tenant sign the lease. The landlord must place the funds in an escrow account and give the tenant any interest generated by such funds. Upon the termination of the lease, the landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant if no violations of the lease occurred. He or she may keep the security deposit or portion thereof for the amount of any damages, which can be proven, pursuant to the terms of the lease.
n. a payment required by a landlord from a tenant to cover the expenses of any repairs of damages to the premises greater than normal "wear and tear." The security deposit must be returned within a short time (varying by states) after the tenant vacates, less the cost of repairing any unusual damage. Unfortunately for tenants these damages are usually subject to the judgment of the landlord, who may desire to paint and refinish on the tenant's money, and is thus, resulting in many small claims suits. In a few states the security deposit must be kept in a separate bank account, and some states require payment of interest on the amount held as a deposit. A security deposit is sometimes confused with a deposit of the "last month's rent," which may be credited to the tenant for the final month's rent. A security deposit cannot be used legally as a rent credit. (See: landlord and tenant, rent, lease)